Category Archives: video games

A Comprehensive Timeline of Overwatch and Playable Black Female Characters (And Why It Matters)

While the Overwatch League, Blizzard’s high-profile international esports endeavour, is well underway (#RiseTogether), casual players who are in tune with the ebb and flow of the game’s content await with bated breath. With the end of the month fast approaching, history dictates that sometime within the next week or so a new hero will be announced, with the latest addition to the roster going live close to the end of March (see: Orisa and Brigitte’s respective release dates).

yeah

A new hero is an exciting prospect for a number of reasons, with competitive players hoping for a chupacabra to finally kill the GOATS meta and lore fiends longing for something, anything, to forward the molasses pace of the universe’s story. It’s also an opportunity for a particular contingent of fans to ask, once again, when the award-winning shooter will finally create a playable Black woman.

Similar to my breakdown of the character of Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming and his relationship to Ganke Lee from the comic books, I will be creating a thorough chronology that highlights select dates in Overwatch‘s history, as well as the public outcry for a Black female hero. Unlike the earlier article, however, I will also be providing my own commentary on why this is so important to some (and perhaps should be to everyone).


November 7th, 2014: Overwatch is announced at BlizzCon, an annual gaming convention that celebrates Blizzard Entertainment’s games and their countless fans, marking their first original IP in 17 years. While a cinematic trailer spotlights four key players in the universe’s lore, a gameplay trailer focuses on the 12 heroes currently available at that time.

Notably, even at this early stage the roster featured a surprising amount of diversity, with the Egyptian combat-armoured Pharah and Indian light-bending Symmetra.


lucioMarch 10, 2015 to November 6, 2015: The remaining nine heroes are announced, rounding the final hero count out to 21.

Lucio (as seen on the right), a world-famous DJ-turned-freedom-fighter, appears to be Afro-Brazilian (and originates from that country).


December 7, 2015: In one of the very first (and soon-to-be heavily memed) Developer Update videos, game director Jeff Kaplan discloses that all future content for Overwatch
(“additional maps and heroes that we’d like to add to the game”) will be free, indicating that the number would not stay 21 for long.


May 24, 2016Overwatch is officially released. Continue reading

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Who Did It Better? Coming Out with J.K. Rowling and Overwatch Lead Writer Michael Chu

It’s the Year of Our Lord 2019 and storytelling is still important. In some cases the stories are the same, like the age-old tale of good triumphing over evil, but they’re being delivered in increasingly more novel ways. Comics are drawn and fan fiction is written and YouTube sketches are filmed, and sometimes the collaborators aren’t even in the same city, let alone country. In other cases the stories, while nothing new, are finally being given the opportunity to be told. The idea of finding yourself isn’t an original one, but the narrative of coming out as gay or lesbian or transgender or any other identity has only recently found a foothold in popular media.

rowlingchuStorytelling and identity are crucial building blocks to our culture, and both are heavily intertwined (as are all things, these days) with the internet (it would be remiss of me not to mention that I chose to do so in a podcast I co-hosted). This is certainly as true for a multi-award-winning online first-person shooter as it is for a series of books that wrapped up a dozen years ago. The Overwatch and Harry Potter universes are like ours in that they are populated by a myriad of different characters, some straight and some LGBT+, but I want to delve into how the similarities, and ultimately the differences, of their respective coming out stories (in both cases the term “coming out” feels accurate, as none of the characters discussed were initially introduced as being anything other than straight).

“Yer a Gay Man, Dumbledore”

Before touching on her approach to revealing one of her characters’ sexual orientations, it’s worth making note of how the billionaire author has reentered our collective conversation. Two years ago a BuzzFeed writer was one of the first to report on a shocking revelation found on Pottermore, a site Rowling created for her legion of fans to learn more about the Wizarding World. Most people online will have come across this by now, but the page in question was about the Chamber of Secrets, and explained that wizards once vanished their excrement in lieu of using toilets. It resulted in one of my favourite Tumblr posts:

brooke

The user has since deleted their blog, so no direct link, sorry!

Continue reading

Overwatch‘s Doomfist, Terry Crews, and Fan Culture

This blog isn’t even supposed to be back on until next week but you know what they say: strike while the iron’s hot. For some of you at least the first two parts of this title have been flitting back and forth across the internet. “Terry Crews!” whispers one corner excitedly, “wants to play Doomfist!” murmurs another. Because of my search history and their All Seeing Eye Facebook even brought to my attention that thousands of their users were discussing that very subject.

So here I am on a Saturday morning, sitting in front of my laptop determined to bring you literally every piece of information I can find about Terry Crews, Overwatch, and the yet-to-be-released hero Doomfist. Oh, and I’m also going to discussing fan culture so if you want to stick around for that as well that’d be cool.

Who Is Doomfist?

So before I even get into that you should know that Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer FPS [first-person shooter] by Blizzard Entertainment that has a lot of playable female characters [and has been snapping up awards like they’re a limited resource]. Doomfist, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, is predicted to be the newest hero in the game, bringing the roster up to a full 24.

That character has also been hinted at as early as the Overwatch cinematic trailer, which came out November 2014. That’s roughly nine months before the ill-fated ARG [alternate reality game] that Blizzard used to hint at and lead up to the release of Sombra, their 23rd hero.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, which is ridiculous because it’s only six minutes long and painfully good, the trailer revolves around two kids witnessing a villainous duo [Reaper and Widowmaker] try to steal an artifact only to be thwarted by ex-Overwatch agents [Tracer and Winston]. The item in question is, like the younger one says, “Doomfist’s gauntlet”. Apparently by wearing it the user “could level a skyscraper.” Continue reading

2016’s Cultural Battleground – Evan’s Account

EDITOR’S NOTE: We end each year by each taking a look back and picking our five best posts, explaining both their importance to us and to the world we currently live in.  Clicking the banner images will link you to each post, so as 2016 comes to a close join us in remembering how far we’ve come, but also how far we still have to go.


To directly quote my co-writer, “**** this year” has been an increasingly common sentiment as the days tick by, but even given the relentless, overwhelming flood of bad news that 2016 has embodied what’s particularly depressing to consider is how little some things have changed. It’s also telling that in spite of us collectively writing more blog posts than last year I’m left feeling like I wrote less, and that what was written is generally of a lower quality as well.

With that in mind and given the handful of bright spots I managed to find I decided to address this year and my coverage of it a little differently by using the “sandwich approach”. Instead of being presented in chronological order below are two positive aspects to 2016 that bookend what amounts to one singular, continuous problem, and one that I take very personally.

tf2overwatchThere’s something beautiful about the way a team can run like a well-oiled machine, each of its separate components working in unison to efficiently accomplish a shared goal. While not always my experience with Overwatch those moments, especially when with friends, have been highlights of my year.

With this post I took a closer look at Blizzard’s latest FPS that, since the time of this post being written, has grown the number of playable female characters to roughly 50%, and its place as part of a growing push in video games to expand beyond the male-only titles of the past.

kimmyasianUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a high point of 2015, a Netflix-exclusive sitcom with an unassailably positive young woman at its core. It even took up one of my slots in my last year in review post, where I praised them for including an Asian love interest while scrutinizing how much they truly valued the verisimilitude needed to portray them correctly.

One tragedy of 2016 is that I was never able to make it past the third episode of its second season, the reason being that Tina Fey et al. created twenty-some minutes of television that dragged those who value Asian American representation before running them over with a steamroller, and then putting it in reverse. Friends assure me that it gets better, but how could it not after falling to such great depths? Continue reading

We Can’t Get No Satisfaction: Yet Another Millennial Throws His Peers Under the Bus

I don’t think you need to subscribe to a Judeo-Christian worldview to come to the conclusion that people are generally horrible. To be more specific, I find that many of us [myself included] tend to believe we deserve more than we really do, that a good portion of our wants are in fact needs or rights. It was the crux of my post on leaks last year, and recent events have once again brought this issue to light.

The first has to do with Overwatch, a game I informed you has been eating up all of my free time. On August 2nd, after a few mistimed reveals over various platforms, game studio Blizzard officially announced their first seasonal event, the totally-not-the-Olympics Summer Games.

summergames

As a playerbase no one really expected this. Yes, there was the expectation of new skins coming down the pipeline, but not new skins and a slew of other cosmetic items, as well as a wholly unique brawl [that, let’s face it, is just Rocket League]. However much of the initial excitement over the upcoming content turned to ashes in players’ mouths when they realized that they would not be able to purchase any of it.

To elaborate, Overwatch is not an F2P (free-to-play) game, which don’t require your purchase and instead support themselves through various optional microtransactions. Blizzard was upfront that Overwatch, after being bought, would be releasing new heroes and maps for free, promising to support the game moving forward. In other words, everything that is essential to playing would cost nothing.

With that in mind, all Summer Games items are exclusively unlocked, from August 2nd to the 22nd,  through loot boxes that you can earn by simply playing the game. In contrast, all standard items can also be purchased with in-game currency, which is earned in the same way. Loot boxes can also be bought with cold hard cash. Upon finding out that their means of acquiring these Summer Games items were thusly limited people flipped out. Continue reading

Why TF2 Doesn’t Have Female Characters [And Overwatch Does]

I’ve played 31 hours of Overwatch to date. Now that pales in comparison to the 322 I’ve clocked on Team Fortress 2 [often shortened to TF2], but the former has only been out since late May and I’ve had the latter for several years now. There’s time to even the scales, is all I’m saying.

31hoursNow those 31 hours may not communicate this this very well, but I am all about this game. As a self-proclaimed Blizzard [the studio behind the game] fanboy who has spent actual cash money on every one of their recent releases save for World of Warcraft I’ll admit that I was already primed for it, but where Diablo III: Reaper of Souls languishes half-finished I don’t see any excitement drop-off in sight for Overwatch.

Counting herself as a fellow member of the game’s 10 million or so players, Polygon contributor Susana Polo’s interest stemmed from a different place. To wit, the presence of so many playable female characters was a huge draw for her in spite of not being “a big shooter fan”. While as a whole the its roster is startlingly diverse [it ostensibly only has four Harveys; see here for an explanation of the terminology] it’s Polo’s perspective, primarily her comparison between Overwatch and Team Fortress 2, that I want to focus on.

Comparing Apples Blues and Oranges

Her article has its foundations in a conversation she had with a former co-worker, namely regarding the fact that “It’s shitty that Team Fortress doesn’t allow you to play as a woman”. As another class-based shooter with a focus on objectives over kills juxtaposing the two only makes sense.

Team Fortress 2 was released by Valve in 2007. The game offers a total of nine different classes to choose from, most of them White, all of them male [as far as we know]. While there has been much speculation about the Pyro [who is fully masked] being a woman there has been no confirmation from developers at this point.

tf2cast

Overwatch has 21 heroes, with Blizzard already teasing another on the way. Of these characters eight of them are female. While not as close to 50% as the actual number of women in the world, it should be noted that of other 13 two are Omnics [robots] and another is a hyperintelligent gorilla.

owcast

Now what we could do is chalk up the creative decisions made by the studios as simply matching the current climate surrounding consumer expectations. While female gamers have always existed it’s within recent years that they’ve become more vocal and made their presence more known, something which the industry appears to have tuned in to.

Given that TF2 was created nearly a decade ago maybe we can cut Valve a little bit of slack for merely keeping up with the times, such as they were. Having made that decision let’s instead change gears and ask a different question: “Why hasn’t Valve added female skins to TF2 in the nine years since it was released?” Continue reading

For Your Consideration: Adam Prosser Interviews Warcraft Director Duncan Jones

Similar to the last time I did this in March, this feature is meant to provide a brief look at what’s been happening on the internet this week [but without the typical commentary and criticism you’ll find around here].

A few short days ago BBC journalist Adam Rosser interviewed director Duncan Jones about his film Warcraft, which premiered in North America one week ago today. The interview was for Rosser’s show Let’s Talk About Tech for BBC 5Live, and given that he works as a freelancer he uploaded it to his personal YouTube account. A copy of the video can be seen below:

The original version has since been taken down due to it being shared on the Battle.net forums for the game the film is based on. That forum post has in turn also been removed as the negative reaction to the interview unsurprisingly, and it’s depressing that it’s an expected response, spawned death threats. Rosser himself comments that:

While many fans [which I’ll remind you is short for “fanatic”] will always react viscerally to the criticism of that which they hold dear, there’s also something to be said for the way in which Rosser actually conducted the interview. Continue reading